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Elite Dangerous

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Elite Dangerous is the definitive massively multiplayer space epic and fourth game in the legendary Elite series. It was developed and published by Frontier Developments and the Windows PC version launched on December 16, 2014. It was partially funded via a Kickstarter campaign.[1] The Mac version was released on May 12, 2015.[2] The Xbox One version launched on October 6, 2015.[3] The PlayStation 4 version is coming on June 27, 2017.[4]

New players start out with a Sidewinder MkI spacecraft and a small sum of Credits. They are able to trade, pirate, bounty-hunt, mine, explore, and salvage their way to wealth and fame.

Elite Dangerous brings a modern look and new features to the Elite Franchise. It is also the first game in the series to feature online multiplayer.

Elite Dangerous takes place in the same universe as Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters, 50 years after the events of FFE, starting in the year 3300AD (which relates to 2014). The Thargoid species, introduced in earlier games, will also appear.

A whole new season of updates are being released, as DLC, available separately; called Elite Dangerous: Horizons.

Features Edit

Elite Dangerous builds upon the legacy and foundations of the previous Elite games, and aims to expand it to a modern context while adding new features that have never before been seen in the Elite series. The Elite Dangerous FAQ has additional information.

Multiplayer vs Solo Edit

Players can choose between the following game modes: Solo (single player), Private Group (only with friends and invited people) or Open Play (multiplayer, play with everyone). In open play, you may encounter any other player who is also in Open, instancing and matching players occurs via a complex system. Players on different platforms cannot directly play with each other. However, every player on every platform affects the same shared galaxy, star systems, factions and the dynamic Background Simulation.

Elite Dangerous has a seamless, lobby-less galaxy, with the ability to rendezvous with friends as the player chooses. People can play with up to 4 players in a Wing or join other people's ships via Multicrew. This was tested since the early betas, and uses a combination of peer-to-peer (to reduce lag) and server connections. The networking system has gradually improved and changed to accommodate new features like Multicrew.

Elite Dangerous Dev Diary 1- Multiplayer and Ships05:02

Elite Dangerous Dev Diary 1- Multiplayer and Ships

Depending on the player's chosen game mode, some of the other ships they meet while traveling through space will be real players as opposed to computer-controlled ships (NPC). This could be a friend which a player has agreed to rendezvous with, or another real player that is encountered by chance.

Due to the gigantic size of the full-scale Milky Way galaxy, player encounters are very rare in deep space. Most players are found in the Bubble This is inhabited space with around 20000 systems including Sol.

All players are Commanders in the Pilots Federation – that is how they are distinguished from non-players. The prefix "CMDR" is visible before their names. The radar can also be used to distinguish a real player from AI controlled ships. A player shows as a hollow square or triangle (indicating stowed or deployed hardpoints) while an NPC ship appears as either a solid square or triangle.

Evolving Universe Edit

Elite Dangerous Dev Diary 2- How the Galaxy will Evolve Over Time06:35

Elite Dangerous Dev Diary 2- How the Galaxy will Evolve Over Time

  • Space station over a planet
  • Closer view
  • Flying close to a damaged ship
  • Space battle
  • Docking

Elite Dangerous has a scientifically accurate 1:1 scale Milky Way galaxy which evolves in real-time. As players explore, different factions will spread to further star systems, colonize planets and build space stations. Players can participate in this process by completing missions for a particular minor faction to increase their influence in a particular system. This can eventually lead to wars. Players can continue to help their chosen faction by participating in them. In addition to war, players can also influence minor factions in star systems in other ways such as by causing an economic boom.

New stations are slowly built in real time. These events create opportunities for players like Community Goals. The resources and workers required for building need to be transported to the site, which becomes a prime target for piracy and increases the demand for bounty hunting.

There are several sentient species in the Milky Way galaxy. The most notable are Humans, Thargoids and Guardians. More species are yet to be discovered.

Procedural Content Edit

Elite Dangerous - procedural generation07:39

Elite Dangerous - procedural generation

Elite Dangerous uses Procedural generation. It's a technique where content is generated from rules. It abstracts repetitive or arbitrary elements of content creation in a very efficient way.

Imagine a medieval landscape. Laying out towns, roads, castles, farm land, forests and so on can be done by a system of rules – putting castles widely spaced out on vantage points, towns near rivers but under the protection of such a castle, roads between them, then farm land to support them all. An artist can still design the castle, the houses in the towns, but this approach greatly magnifies the content that can be created. Frontier: Elite II did this for star systems and planets. Frontier Developments will go much further with this technique in Elite Dangerous.

Player Roles Edit

Elite Dangerous Dev Diary 3 - Player Roles04:06

Elite Dangerous Dev Diary 3 - Player Roles

Player Roles Dev Diary

Unlike RPGs, players in Elite Dangerous do not choose their role by customizing stats and skills of their character. Instead, the player is free to assume any role. This is similar to how people choose roles in real-life.

The player can customize his or her character's physical characteristics with Holo-Me. It allows deep character customization which can be done at any time. For example, players can change their suit, head and facial features, gender and other cosmetics. The Camera Suite is a fully functional third-person camera suite. It lets players take sophisticated screenshots, make cinematic videos and fly ships in third person.

The choice and customisation of a player's ship gears it towards specific role(s). Some examples are Trader, Miner, Explorer, Bounty Hunter, Smuggler, Courier, Mercenary, Assassin and Pirate. Hybrid roles are possible through emergent gameplay. For example defensive bounty hunting while trading in a multipurpose vessel, or taking long-range trade missions and exploring systems along the way.

In order to allow each player to explore each role they are able to own multiple ships. Every ship can be customised to fill a certain role. Unused ships are stored in station hangars and can be retrieved by returning to that station at any time. It can also be delivered to a station near your location, as long as it has a shipyard.

Trading Edit

Elite Dangerous Trading Dev Diary05:40

Elite Dangerous Trading Dev Diary

In previous Elite games trading was limited to a relatively small number of different commodities such as hydrogen fuel, precious metals, computers etc.

Traders in Elite Dangerous have access to a vast number of commodities, both legal and illegal. There's also rare commodities which are unique to a specific star system. These increase in value the further from their origin they're sold.

Instead of static prices per star system, markets respond to events going on in the vicinity such as war, famine, blockades etc. This creates the opportunity for players to "game" the markets by manipulating supply and demand.

Players are also able to smuggle goods by moving fast or use precise management of ship heat in order to slip past station security forces.

Piracy Edit

Elite Dangerous Physical Gamepack Art

Elite Dangerous Physical Gamepack official art

Players can steal cargo from other ships by using a variety of means. They can employ hatch-breaker limpets which, when fired at an un-shielded target, will latch onto the cargo hatch and extract cargo canisters from it. In addition, once shields have been dropped a player can shoot the cargo hatch manually to damage it which has the same effect, but requires more skill in most cases. Once stolen cargo has been scooped, it can be smuggled and sold at stations and outposts with black markets.

Various combat events (e.g. performing tight turns, firing weapons) heat up a ship's hull, which makes the ship easier to be spotted on scanners. This in turn makes it easier for pirates and bounty hunters to locate such ships. This helps players detect on-going battles and join in. David Braben has hinted at the ability for combatants to communicate with ships in the vicinity to "do deals".[citation needed] This could mean that the player may get a share of the profits if they save a trader from pirates or get a share of the loot if they don't mind getting a bounty on their head.

Bounty Hunting Edit

Throughout the galaxy players may encounter non-player ships, which are controlled by AI, and real players who have taken a life of crime. Once scanned, a player can see the current bounty issued against that pilot. If destroyed in combat the player will receive a bounty voucher. It can be redeemed at a starport controlled by the faction that issued the bounty to receive a reward.

Consequently, many criminals seek refuge in systems with an anarchy status. Anarchy systems are ruled by a faction that doesn't enforce the rule of law. However, players are able to scan other ships in these systems with a kill warrant scanner in order to see if they are wanted in any other systems. Upon destroying a wanted ship the player can travel to the system the bounty was issued and claim it.

Elite Dangerous E3 Banner art

Elite Dangerous E3 Banner official art

Mining Edit

Players can mine a plethora of materials from planetary ring systems and asteroid belts that orbit around stars. When a mining laser and refinery module are equipped to a ship, the player can fire at suitable asteroids and use the cargo scoop to collect asteroid chunks. The pieces are refined onboard the ship.

Limpets - disposable autonomous drones - can be very helpful when mining. Prospector limpets can help you find the best resources, while Collector limpets retrieve mined asteroid chunks.

Refineries have temporary bins that will store a refined product (after you've scooped it). Once each respective bin reaches 100%, the bin contents will then be automatically transferred to your cargo hold as a unit of 1, at which point it can be sold at a station.

Hyperdrives Edit

Previous Elite games tried to obey the laws of physics to a certain extent. This meant conventional thrusters were limited by the laws of relativity i.e. players couldn't travel faster than light within a star system. Frontier: Elite II used the Stardreamer feature (perceived time dilation by slowing the pilot's bodily functions) as a realism/gameplay trade-off.

However, such a mechanism don't work in a multiplayer game. Thus Elite Dangerous features faster-than-light travel called Supercruise. Each ship comes equipped with a Frame Shift Drive (FSD) which allows it to travel faster than light within a star system, or to other star systems via a Hyperspace jump. A FSD can be upgraded to increase its range, enabling faster travel around the galaxy and long-range exploration. The Hyperspace range of a FSD is decreased by the ship's mass. So if your ship is outfitted with heavier ship components (hardpoints, internal modules, etc) your jump distance will be reduced. The mass of any carried cargo or fuel reduces it too. This is referred to as the laden and unladen jump range.

Landing On PlanetsEdit

  • Concept art showing atmospheric entry
  • Concept art of flying through a planet's atmosphere

Planetary Landing on realistic, full-sized, airless planets and moons is possible since the release of the season of updates called Elite Dangerous: Horizons. You can land, visit outposts, starports, use a SRV to drive and explore the surface for materials, alien and fungal lifeforms etc.

Ship CustomizationEdit


Pre-launch image of possible thruster models.

Ships can be customized and outfitted. This gives the player control over its strengths and weaknesses. Modules within each ship affect how it performs and functions. Thrusters, Sensors, Frame Shift Drives, Power Plants and more can all be swapped out to customise a ship. Livery - paintjobs and decals - are customizable too. All ship customization takes place in the outfitting screen when docked at a station, outpost or starport.

Readying WeaponsEdit

Weapon hardpoints on a ship can be stowed or deployed. Other players in your vicinity who have their weapons stowed will show up on your scanner with a square symbol. This changes to a triangle when their weapons are deployed. NPC ships have solid squares/triangles. Real players (CMDRs) symbols are hollow.

Realistic Astrophysics and ScaleEdit

  • Asteroid Field
  • Flying through a field
  • Flying on the edge of the atmosphere

Elite Dangerous features realistic astrophysics, with bodies in star systems at the correct distances, scale, and move along their orbital paths in real time. Planets orbit and rotate around stars in 1:1 scale and real-time. The universe is modeled based on authentic and current galactic charts. New features will be added iteratively over time. David Braben confirmed the inclusion of new encounters with e.g. comets, black holes and quasars.

Elite Dangerous is set in a procedurally generated Milky Way galaxy with over 400 billion star systems, including our own Sol.[5]

The vast, scientifically accurate 1:1 scale of the seamless Milky Way galaxy is created using a mix of procedural generation and artist direction.

There are several sentient species in the Milky Way galaxy. The most notable are Humans, Thargoids and Guardians. More species are yet to be discovered.

Flight Model Edit

The flight model of Elite Dangerous has Newtonian physics with a fly-by-wire layer applied over the top to make the combat feel visceral and seat-of-the-pants, rather than Frontier's jousting at huge distances.[6]

The fly-by-wire system of Flight Assist is a ship computer which keeps the ship within flight parameters, constrains the angular and linear velocity and makes it easier to pilot. It can be turned off so you have to manually adjust the thruster forcers, but Flight Assist and fly-by-wire is always partially on to keep the ship movement in specified limits overlayed on a Newtonian mechanics model.

Story Edit

Elite Dangerous features a shared narrative which is influenced by players on all different platforms. This occurs with community events like Salomé, community goals and Powerplay activities. All of the meta data for the galaxy is shared between players. It's not traditional storytelling, rather an interactive, overarching narrative. Players have influenced and changed the course of events. The story unfolds in real time, in which players decide the outcomes and can be the stars.[7] The latest information on in-game events and stories are reported on GalNet. See the Elite Dangerous Timeline for a chronological list of events.

Braben explained: "We're bringing in a story that embraces all the players. People have said that Elite doesn't have a story. It does have a story, it just not a rescue the princess style single-player threaded story. What we have is the story of your life through the game, your progression. What we will have is things that happen to you as you reach certain stages of the game, you'll get invited to join things."

"But those are stories that work for all the players. You know, if you get invited to join a secret organisation, that can happen to lots of people. And the great thing is, if it doesn't happen to you you'll go "oh, why have they not invited me?" But then that's exciting, you'll think "oh well, ok, I did kill that policeman the other day, maybe I need to get my reputation a bit higher."[8]

Galnet is the official source with galactic news. Tourist Beacons and Listening Posts have official lore about a wide range of topics.

Lore Edit

This is a lore summary from the EDRPG about the universe of Elite Dangerous:

Cheap and faster than light travel has enabled humanity to expand across the stars. They've built colonies, cities, stations and empires. This led to the rise of galactic superpowers: the Federation, Empire and Alliance. The galaxy's vast wealth of minerals, water and life-bearing planets makes them wealthier every day. Such wealth of the major factions attracts powerful people who scheme daily to gain power.

The Middle-classes can afford spaceships like cars in the 20th century. This gives them tremendous freedom. Space trade is seldom hampered by politics. Pilots are encouraged to do all kinds of jobs such as supplying stations. Little has changed for those in the bottom of society since the old-Earth's dark ages. The planet-spanning mega corporations employ entire nations and rule unchecked over vast sections of the galaxy. Weapons are readily available and people are inclined to shoot first. The general lawlessness of space, inequality, greed of the galactic elite, navigational hazards and fierce creatures on planets make it a dangerous galaxy.[9]

Virtual Reality Edit

Elite Dangerous is a groundbreaking title for virtual reality gaming, because its one of the first major titles to offer full VR support with an exceptionally immersive experience in an all-encompassing universe. It was the go to game for many VR headset demos before the devices were commercially available. From a technical standpoint, Elite Dangerous is one of the PC’s most high-end VR titles, pushing even very powerful PCs to their limit.

Elite Dangerous is designed from the ground up to support Virtual Reality and 4K Ultra HD display technology. It has Cutting-edge visual quality and performance enabled by Frontier's COBRA engine. It supports the latest displays at 4K resolution, and is built for the future with full 8K and 16K support. It's compatible with Oculus Rift, SteamVR and Vive headsets.[10]

Development Edit

In 2012 space sims were unpopular among publishers so it was difficult to attract funding for such a project. Publishers would want to steer the game in a particular direction which was unacceptable for David Braben. In an interview he said "Working with publishers is great, but as part of the process, inevitably the publisher will want to steer the game in a particular direction. It happened with “Elite” – the game was rejected by Thorne-EMI because it was so different to what had gone before; to what they believed would be successful because those sort of games were successful before. They wanted three lives, a score and a ten minute play time. That was because that was the norm at the time. Today, we would be steered to make a game with cut-scenes that would appeal to an imagined audience. That is not the game I want to make."[11]

At the 2011 Game Developers Conference, David Braben gave a presentation Classic Game Postmortem - ELITE. During the Q&A someone in the audience asked "Is Elite 4 still on the drawing board?" Braben answered "Yes it would be a tragedy for it not to be."[12]

Frontier had been working on the game as a "skunk-works" background activity for some time prior to its Kickstarter launch. Other projects were prioritized. “... has been worked upon by a small team as a ‘skunk-works’ activity in the background as availability permits”[13] Elite Dangerous uses Frontier's own state-of-the-art in-house COBRA Engine tools and technology. COBRA has been carefully planned, developed and evolved since 1988.[14]

Over a quarter of a century after the original, David Braben of Frontier Developments launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in November 2012. The purpose was to test-market the concept, verify whether there's broader interest in a fourth game and to raise funds to help make the game.

Braben wrote "We’re using Kickstarter both as a means of test-marketing the concept to verify there is still interest in such a game that extends beyond the individuals who regularly contact me about the game, and raising the funds to do so. There is also the fact that as long as we hit the threshold, it commits us to making the game."[15] By April 2014, £1.7m had been raised.[16] This was a fraction of the total budget for developing the base-game, Elite Dangerous (1.0). At Gamescom 2014 Braben said "The original budget, because we put a lot of our money towards it, was £8m," "it's grown by quite a lot".[17]

Those who pledged big during the Kickstarter got beta-access. People also bought beta access at £50 a pop. This included the full game. In mid-August 2014, more than 75,000 people were playing the Elite: Dangerous beta, providing "more and more money that moves ever closer to the game breaking even in a really good way."[18]

Frontier had also reacquired the rights to the Elite franchise. Frontier purchased the software and IT consultancy company Professional Practice Automation in a £5.09m deal on Tuesday April 15, 2014. This included the royalty rights to the Elite video game franchise which was held by PPA.[19]

In December 2013, A playable alpha version of the game was released to Kickstarter backers who pledged pledged £200.[20] In May 2014, the game entered the first phase of beta testing. The focus was primarily on testing the systems and servers with a greater number of players. A pre-release "gamma" build was released to backers three weeks before launch to give them a head start.

Elite Dangerous (1.0) was developed and published by Frontier Developments and the Windows PC version launched on December 16, 2014. Since then it has had many updates and launched on multiple platforms.

The Elite Dangerous Premiere was held in November 2014. There were interviews, videos, speeches, reveals, prize giveaways and a detailed 1:10 scale model of the Cobra MkIII.[21]


Elite Dangerous Premiere Cobra Model

The Mac version was released on May 12, 2015.[22] The Xbox One version launched on October 6, 2015.[23] The PlayStation 4 version is coming on June 27, 2017.[24]

Post-launch it can be estimated that the development budget for Elite Dangerous has been in the tens of millions of pounds, perhaps near a hundred million pounds including major updates and expansions like Elite Dangerous Horizons.

On May 26 2017, the producer for the Elite Dangerous PS4 version Lloyd Morgan-Moore said “The Elite Dangerous team is over a hundred people strong, and while we have a dedicated PS4 team to handle things like PSN infrastructure, everyone is working on content which will appear simultaneously on all platforms. We don’t regard platforms separately when it comes to content."[25]

Sales Edit

The game had sold around 1.7 million units by the end of May 2016.[26] By the end of December 2016 a total of over 2.1 million paid franchise units of Elite: Dangerous had been sold.[27]

Development Plans Edit

Frontier uses an iterative approach with development. They gradually build upon features to expand and improve them. Expansions and major updates will bring various new features to Elite Dangerous. Some of these were available in previous Elite games and some are completely new to the Elite series. Horizons is the first expansion which consists of a season with major updates that add many new features, content and improvements to the Milky Way galaxy.

Elite Dangerous has a truly huge scope and Frontier has ambitious development plans. During an interview at Lavecon 2015, Frontier stated to have a clear intention of a 10 year development plan.[28] It's confirmed by David Braben during a charity livestream in December 2016.[29] This includes small free updates and paid major updates. The Features in the Expansions page gives a rough overview of planned additions for ED.

For example, the roadmap is to add these features with major updates (in no particular order):[30] [31]

Sound and Music Edit

Elite Dangerous OST Cover

Elite Dangerous OST, released on April 1, 2015

The Elite Dangerous Music was made by composer Erasmus Talbot and Frontier Head of Audio, Jim Croft. The Elite Dangerous Original Soundtrack has over 2 hours of music content to immerse yourself in the Elite Dangerous universe.

Erasmus Talbot and Jim Croft developed the dynamic music system that allows the score to ‘breathe’ and reflect gameplay. Croft managed a team of talented individuals who also worked on audio such as ship engine sound and the ship's voice. Croft said it's been an absolute honor and privilege to be involved with Elite Dangerous.[32]

Whether Elite Dangerous is the most complex project he's worked on in his career, Jim Croft answered "I would say so, yes. It’s a bit like Alice. It’s a small rabbit hole initially but once you’ve started down it, one thing tends to lead to another and before you know it you are lost in labyrinthine complexity."

Regarding the backer response to the audio Jim Croft said "The response to Alpha 1.0 has been overwhelmingly positive. We were really glad to hear that people were in general enjoying our approach, particularly with respect to ship engines. One of our biggest challenges is in attempting to make space flight feel enjoyable, dynamic and non-fatiguing, while adhering to a plausible physical flight model as much as we can. It’s very tough to keep all parties happy; some like a light touch or no sound at all, whereas others want the full ‘Hollywood’ treatment. We want to give players what they want. Our aim is making as much of the audio in the game as customisable as possible in the audio options. So players can pick and choose the elements they prefer to hear and which elements they do not." [33]

Reception Edit

PC Gamer's Chris Thursten rated it 86/100 and said "a great game and, with time, potentially a classic. Much rests on Frontier's ability to build on these broad but somewhat shallow foundations."[34] The Koalition rated Elite Dangerous 95% “Shining Bright Like a Supernova.”[35] Edge Magazine gave it an 8/10 “Satisfying handling that sets a new standard for any cockpit-based genre.” The Guardian rated it 4/5 "Vast, Beautiful and Intimidating. The classic space-trading simulation returns with a vast multiplayer universe and a complex interplay of trading, exploring and, of course, fighting."[36]

Awards Edit

Elite Dangerous won the Game Developers Choice Award 2015 for best audience.[37] Elite Dangerous also won ‘Best of E3’ from and in 2014.[38] It was nominated for Evolving Game by the British Academy Games Awards (BAFTA) in 2017.[39]


  1. Chalk, Andy. "Elite: Dangerous Creator Says Crowdfunding Covered Less than One-quarter of Its Total Cost." PC Gamer, 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
  3. Hussain, Tamoor. "Elite: Dangerous Xbox One Release Date Revealed." GameSpot, 8 Sept. 2015.
  5. PCGamesN David Braben interview
  6. Elite: Dangerous will have 100 billion star systems, plus Thargoids — Braben reveals what's next
  23. Hussain, Tamoor. "Elite: Dangerous Xbox One Release Date Revealed." GameSpot, 8 Sept. 2015.
  27. Frontier Developments PLC Trading Update
  29. Elite Dangerous 24 Hour Charity Livestream! Part 1! 2016
  30. Elite Dangerous Newsletter #29
  32. Meet the Team #12- Jim Croft (Head of Audio)
  34. Elite Dangerous Review - PC Gamer
  35. Elite Dangerous Review – Shining Bright Like a Supernova
  36. Elite: Dangerous review – vast, beautiful and intimidating
  37. GDC 2015 Hearthstone and Elite: Dangerous Won Game Developers Choice Awards
  38. "Elite: Dangerous shown at E3 2014 in Los Angeles, wins 'Best of E3' awards"
  39. British Academy Games Awards Winners in 2017

Gallery Edit

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